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Rarely do you find a furniture style that looks equally at home in both a twenty something's first Ikea-filled apartment and an Architectural Digest cover story. But that’s the versatility of the tulip table. It’s a timeless pedestal table with a legacy that started in the 1950s and has enjoyed seven decades of ever-increasing popularity.
The sculptural tulip table isn’t just for dining. You’ll often see it used as a workspace, in living room vignettes, or even dramatic entryways. In recent years, it’s become beloved by Instagram decor influencers and fans of minimalist decor, who fill their Pinterest boards with tulip tables in sleek breakfast rooms and stylish offices.
Meet the experts
To create this guide we consulted with interior design experts to learn about tulip tables and pick up tips on how to style a tulip table, and which tables you should consider. In this guide, you'll hear from:
Katie Simpson, Interior Designer at Mackenzie Collier Interiors, explains that a tulip table is a classic mid-century modern silhouette that typically has a curved and thin minimalist pedestal base that supports a circular or oval shaped table top. The result is similar to an inverted tulip, hence the name.
“Finnish-American architect and furniture designer Eero Saarinen designed the tulip table to eliminate what he saw as ‘the slum of legs’ traditional tables and chairs have. Aside from its sleek and versatile aesthetic, the tulip table has remained popular mainly for its space-saving benefit,” says Stacy Lewis, Owner and Interior Designer at Eternity Modern. Legs were the bane of the existence in American homes and Saarinen took them on headfirst, creating a table that has influenced generations of design enthusiasts.
History of the Tulip Table
When Saarinen first designed the tulip table in the 1950s, he set out to modernize the classic dining table, says Simpson. Consumers were used to centuries, or even millennia, of tables with at least four legs creating a visual jumble beneath the table and often getting in the way of unsuspecting legs when friends and family gathered for a meal. He wanted to streamline the concept of the table by removing the legs and replacing it with a simple pedestal base.
Carla Royder, Founder of Carla Royder Designs & Co., explains further, “The tulip table was a solution for many dining spaces and entertaining because it didn't have the traditional legs of a dining room table. It allowed for chairs to be tucked under the table and not to be in the way. Originally called the 'pedestal group', it was noted that the design resembles a flower growing from the stem (the base) into a bloom (the round/oval top).”
“The tulip table originated from Eero Saarinen, who was a furniture designer alongside Charles and Ray Eames for Knoll,” says Royder. Saarinen was also an architect and industrial designer, whose influences included Mies van der Rohe, and who designed famous spaces including Dulles Airport outside Washington, DC, the TWA Flight Center in New York, and St. Louis’ iconic Gateway Arch.
Royder says, “The tulip table went along with the goal of all of Saarinen's furniture which was 'it must be classic'.” And it truly is classic. This design has stood the test of time and looks at home with a variety of design styles across different eras.
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5 Example Tulip Tables
1. Saarinen Dining Table
This is the tulip table. If you have the budget and want the original, splurge on the Saarinen Tulip. It’s a sculptural masterpiece that is instantly recognizable. You’re not just buying a table, you’re investing in a piece of design history.
Available as a round or oval dining table, the Saarineen table from Knoll also has a large number of marble top choices including satin coated marble and polished coated mable in a range of colors. You can choose from choose a granite, quartz, wood veneer, or a laminate top.
“We don't mess with the classics — the 42' Saarineen table from Knoll is the original and the best. We are partial to the carrara top (a blue-grey or white marble) as it is the most classic and was what was offered when it was originally released. The key to looking for an original knoll table is the cast aluminum base. It,” explains Carla Royder.
A slightly smaller version of the tulip table, this round dining table measures in at 39.5”. But, as apartment dwellers know, in small spaces, just a few inches can make a difference. This Allie Dining Table comes only in white and offers the same gracefully curved lines as the original tulip table. Also perfect as kitchen table if you’re looking to create a breakfast nook or maximize the space in your kitchen.
Offered in four sizes, 40”, 48”, 52”, and 60”, and two colors, white and black, this minimalist design appeals to those who have specific decor needs. It has the stunning seamless curves of the iconic design and the delicately thin pedestal and a black or white base that mid-century design aficionados appreciate. The base is a semi-glossy cast aluminum, which gives it the same reflective, sleek quality as the top.
“I recommend this white lacquer tulip dining table from one of my collections. It's a mid-century classic design that instantly adds charm and elegance to any living space,” says Lewis.
“I love this tulip table from William Sonoma. While it pays homage to the original Saarinen table design, you can customize the materials of the top and base to fit any style,” says Simpson.
This table gives you so, so many options. Not only is it available in 42” and 56” round, you can also go big with a 70” oval, perfect for a formal dining room. Tops include Carrara Marble, Black Marble, Walnut Wood, and Ebonized Oak, while bases include Antique Brass and Polished Nickel. This is the table you want if you’re going for an incredibly luxe modern look. It’s just as iconic as the original, but with fresh updates for any style.
You’ve probably seen a handful of Docksta hacks on Pinterest. It’s a beloved budget-friendly version of the tulip table, and Ikea has been producing it for years. You can even buy a replacement top if your table falls victim to a toddler’s crayons or one too many drink spills! At just over 40” in diameter, this is a favorite of small space dwellers.
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How to Style a Tulip Table
One of the best features of a tulip table is its ability to accommodate almost any dining chair. Because it doesn’t have legs, you aren’t restricted by the four corners. Instead, Lewis says, “There are many ways to style a tulip table, depending on your taste. You can pair it with a wishbone chair to create a contrast of cool and warm aesthetic. If you want a mid-century vibe, pair it with a vintage chair for added depth and character — tulip chairs also pair well (as the name would suggest).
“We really enjoy pairing a modern tulip table with a more traditional chair, such as a chair with a cane back. The juxtaposition between the styles is unexpected yet a marriage between old and new,” Carla Royder. You’ll often see tulip tables paired with classic windsor chairs, mid-century inspired ghost chairs, or, of course, the timeless and style-appropriate tulip armchair.
“We really enjoy pairing a modern tulip table with a more traditional chair, such as a chair with a cane back. The juxtaposition between the styles is unexpected yet a marriage between old and new."
But the tulip table isn’t restricted to the dining room or the kitchen. “You can even slide it next to your sofa as a side table,” says Lewis. You’ll see them used in bright offices with open seating or in mod entryways. Since the tulip table has historically been all white and minimalist, Lewis suggests, “For a pop of color, pair it with brightly colored plants or cool accent pieces.”
“Tulip tables are designed to stand out on their own, but if you want to add a little extra personality, opt for a contemporary decorative centerpiece such as the SIN pronged bowl to complement the modern design,” says Simpson.
The best part about a tulip table is its versatility and functionality. It looks perfectly grandmillennial when styled with a turquoise chippendale chair and tailored drapery in a breakfast nook. When paired with warm cane chairs and a vintage Persian rug, it takes on a boho vibe. And, when you add stark black windsor chairs, a sisal rug, and moody art, it could fit right at home in an eclectic rowhouse. This is a design icon that’s survived for nearly three quarters of a century and, if the past is any indication, we’ll continue to style it with home decor trends for decades to come.
Heather Bien is a Washington, DC-based writer whose work appears on Apartment Therapy, MyDomaine, Martha Stewart Weddings, mindbodygreen, and more. She previously worked in interior design and still can't resist redecorating every chance she gets.
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